Last year John Howard had “all his Christmases come at once with the
passing of the workplace reform legislation,” and it won’t be long
before the repercussion hit the airwaves of talkback radio, the letters
to the editor page and nightly current affairs shows, says Alex Millmow in The Age. Workers
will complain of lost rights and lost jobs when the impact of the
legislation finally hits home, and Australia will “end up with a labour
market of fear.” And it’s ironic that these reforms will come into play
exactly 75 years after Australia was granted a formal wage fixing body,
the Arbitration Court (now the AIRC). The business council of Australia
has been pushing for its own economic reform for years, and the
closeness of the Howard reforms to the BCA’s suggest the council
basically has its own seat in cabinet.

When it comes to the Cronulla riots, New South Wales Premier Morris
Iemma has been “tripped up by his decision to indulge in a daily
session of spin rather than waiting for the police do their job,” says
Anne Davies in The Sydney Morning Herald, following the furore around
the decision to hold back a tape of man being assaulted by a group of
Middle Eastern men. Iemma last week caved in on his policy of not
differentiating based on race and changed the name of his investigative
squad to the “Middle Eastern
Organised Crime Squad.” It’s foolish – for both sides of politics –
to try and score political points out of this violence. “Language matters, particularly from our leaders. It is their job
to lead, not to play to prejudice in the community.”

The Jakarta lobby in Australia should be ashamed. “Those ministers,
journalists, diplomats and academics who played
down or ignored consistent human rights abuses in the former
Portuguese colony” of East Timor, and sought to protect the Soeharto
dictatorship at every turn have no excuse, writes Scot Burchill in The Age.
When oil or gas was at stake, state
terrorism by the Indonesian military was “uncomfortable for Canberra
but acceptable, providing most of it could be concealed from the
Australian public.” The 43 West Papuan refugees who arrived last week
just show that the goal of “stability is
not only a dereliction of our ethical duty, it is politically
short-sighted.” And in response to the latest UN report on Indonesian
atrocities in East Timor, Australia needs to recognise that we “still
owe these people a
great deal.”

“Blink and you missed it,” the new Cold War has come and gone, says Mark Almond in The Guardian.
The New Year’s Day stand off between Russia and much of Eastern Europe
over its right to Russian gas supplies portrayed President Vladimir
Putin as a “judo blackbelt with a chess grandmaster’s geostrategic
grasp,” when in reality Putin’s influence is slowly waning. It’s really only old Cold War warriors from the
West who want to portray him as a “terrifying spook,” ready to lunge at
the West’s throat, says Almond. The new Russian elite “craves
acceptance from the West,” although it is clear that someone is still
fighting the cold war – but it’s not Russia. “The chill wind that has
been blowing towards the Kremlin for decades is still coming from the
west,” and it’s something to worry about.

Those in Iran who are optimistic the internet will usher in a wave of
political change should take a reality check, because the information
revolution may “impede political change in Iran as much as it
facilitates it,” says Joseph Braude in The New Republic.
For those who expect a cultural revolution to come from the information
revolution they may be disappointed to learn that the changes they want
have already happened. Iran already consumes American films, music and
US culture in massive doses. And rather than blatantly censor content
on the web, the hard line Islamists in Iran have “figured
out how to use the medium to its advantage” by using mild filtration
methods, which give the feeling of freedom, but actually offer very
little of it. And as Americans “debate whether to permit Iran to
acquire nuclear weapons, we shouldn’t count on the internet to save us.”

It’s always disconcerting to hear from Osama bin Laden, but the “White
House’s cavalier attitude about its failure” to catch him is probably
more of a concern than anything the nutty terrorist has to say, says
the Los Angeles Times.
But it does confirm the belief that “Iraq is the
central front in the clash between modernity and Islamist terror” –
something that both Bush and Bin Laden agree upon, and something that
has gone someway to justify the US’s Iraq invasion. It has been
transformed from a war about a brutal dictator to the focal point of
world terrorism, which Bush is happy he’s fighting abroad and not on
home turf. Why Bin Laden is getting involved in Iraq is perplexing, but
one thing’s for sure: he has “plenty of reason to worry about his
standing in the Muslim world.”

Worth reading Highly recommended